Roland Emmerich prepared himself to film a story about the greatest literary figure in the English language by directing Independence Day, Godzilla, The Patriot and The Day After Tomorrow. In 2000, I commented that The Patriot, with Mel Gibson, was “a ridiculous work, which could only be taken seriously in a period like ours in which ideas and ideals are held in such generally low esteem.”
In both his disaster and horror films and his misguided foray into the history of the American Revolution, the German-born Emmerich has shown himself given to bombast, simplification and crudity. He has easily matched his previous unfortunate efforts in Anonymous.
The premise of the new film is that English dramatist and poet William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was not the author of the three dozen or so plays attributed to him, rather they were written by Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford (1550-1604). This claim has been around for more than a century, and has been thoroughly refuted by both internal (Oxford was not a remarkable poet, while the real Shakespeare was) and external evidence (personal and historical facts too numerous to mention). Whether or not Emmerich and his screenwriter, John Orloff, actually subscribe to the theory is unclear. Orloff may, but one suspects that Emmerich, while he defends the Oxfordian thesis in public, could hardly care less. The film is merely another opportunity to display his questionable inventiveness.
I like the notion of the film but when I saw the trailers I thought, "I can't believe how boring this looks."
Going out with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"